RED II: The renewable Energy Directive

The RED obliges Member States to achieve a general target of 20% renewables in all energy used by 2020 and a sub-target of 10% renewables in the transport sector. EU Member States are required to meet a minimum binding target of 10% renewable energy share in the transport sector by 2020. All types of renewable energy used in all transport modes are included in the target setting.

Some renewable energy sources are counted differently. For example, the contribution of advanced biofuels towards achieving the 10% target is counted twice whereas electricity from renewable energy sources for road transport counts 2.5 times.

According to the RED, biofuels must meet minimum sustainability criteria as well as minimum GHG savings per energy unit.

To meet the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030, EU Member States need to establish a 10-year integrated national energy and climate plan (NECP) for the period from 2021 to 2030. With a view to showing global leadership on renewables, the EU has set an ambitious, binding target of 32% for renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix by 2030.

To summarize the main factors that these plans should cover, we can conclude:

  • Accomplish the emissions target establish by 2030 and 2050 by the EU
  • The EU governance establishes that the PNIEC must have objectives of flexibility of the energy system through distributed generation, renewable energy communities, aggregation, smart grids, demand management, storage and price signals in real time that guarantee the consumer participation in the energy system and benefit from self-consumption and smart meters.
  • The governance regulation establishes citizen participation procedures so that the public has all the information and participates through public consultations and multi-level dialogue[1]

The RED places the overall responsibility for fulfilling the RED targets on the Member States.

The recast directive moves the legal framework to 2030 and sets a new binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of at least 32%, with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023, and comprises measures for the different sectors to make it happen. This includes new provisions for enabling self-consumption of renewable energy, an increased 14 % target for the share of renewable fuels in transport by 2030 and strengthened criteria for ensuring bioenergy sustainability.

Under the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action (EU) 2018/1999, EU countries are required to draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for 2021-2030, outlining how they will meet the new 2030 targets for renewable energy and for energy efficiency.

Most of the other elements in the new directive need to be transposed into national law by Member States by 30 June 2021, when the original renewables directive will be repealed.

EU countries set out how they plan to meet these 2020 targets and the general course of their renewable energy policy in national renewable energy action plans.

Progress towards national targets is measured every two years when EU countries publish national renewable energy progress reports.


The RED II defines a series of sustainability and GHG emission criteria that bioliquids used in transport must comply with to be counted towards the overall 14% target and to be eligible for financial support by public authorities.

Default GHG emission values and calculation rules are provided in Annex V (for liquid biofuels) and Annex VI (for solid and gaseous biomass for power and heat production) of the RED II. The Commission can revise and update the default values of GHG emissions when technological developments make it necessary. Economic operators have the option to either use default GHG intensity values provided in RED II or to calculate actual values for their pathway.

Greenhouse gas savings thresholds in RED II
Plant operation start dateTransport biofuelsTransport renewable fuels of non-biological origin
Before October 201550%
After October 201560 %
After January 202165 %70 %
After January 202665 %70 %

Biofuel production typically takes place on cropland that was previously used for other agriculture such as growing food or feed. Since this agricultural production is still necessary, it may lead to the extension of agriculture land into non-cropland, possibly including areas with high carbon stock such as forests, wetlands and peatlands. This process is known as indirect land use change (ILUC). As this may cause the release of CO2 stored in trees and soil, indirect land use change risks negating the greenhouse gas savings that result from increased biofuels. To address the issue of ILUC in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, the revised renewable energy directive introduces a new approach.

It sets limits on high ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels with a significant expansion in land with high carbon stock. These limits will affect the amount of these fuels that Member States can count towards their national targets when calculating the overall national share of renewables and the share of renewables in transport. Member states will still be able to use (and import) fuels covered by these limits, but they will not be able to include these volumes when calculating the extent to which they have fulfilled their renewable targets. These limits consist of a freeze at 2019 levels for the period 2021-2023, which will gradually decrease from the end of 2023 to zero by 2030. This could be an advantage for new approaches like BACTOFUEL where no land is needed to harvest and collect the crop to produce the biofuel. Countries and member states could take advantage of this innovative technology.

How will EU targets affect novel advanced biofuel demand in 2025?

The RED policy framework ensures long-term EU demand for novel advanced biofuels, and if the targets included in policies already outlined by some member states to raise consumption are met, they will prompt investment in new technologies and encourage biofuel feedstock diversification – and take the European Union half way to its 2025 interim target. Nevertheless, realising the RED target for 2030 will require policy support in more member states, in addition to progress in the development of less mature technologies. The updated RED for 2021-30 stipulates that 1.75% of transport fuel demand in 2030 should be met by fuels categorised by the IEA as novel advanced biofuels. Thirteen member states explained how they intend to fulfil this requirement in their draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) submitted to the European Commission: ten have already defined quota policies that will raise demand for novel advanced biofuels beyond 2020, and three have established a target for 2020. The fulfilment of current policies in these 13 member states will result in 32 petajoules (PJ) of novel advanced biofuel demand in 2025, which is significant considering that global production of novel advanced biofuel was around only 44 PJ in 2018.

Furthermore, most of the novel advanced biofuel production in 2018 came from plants that used only UCO and animal fat feedstocks, which do not count towards the 1.75% RED target. Fuels from these feedstocks fall under a separate quota of 1.7% of EU transport energy demand in 2030 (before double-counting). As novel advanced biofuel output from other feedstocks amounts to less than 10 PJ, meeting these mandates will require a rapid scale-up in the production of cellulosic ethanol, biomethane and biofuels from thermochemical processes that use different feedstocks. The NECPs of the Czech Republic, Estonia and Italy indicate that biomethane will be the main fuel used to meet their advanced biofuel policy goals. If all currently defined EU member state quotas are met, novel advanced biofuels will supply 0.5% of EU transport energy consumed in 2025 – half of the 1% interim target for the European Union as a whole. This takes into account the RED provision that permits member states to count the energy content of advanced biofuels twice; without double-counting, the amount of anticipated EU transport demand covered by novel advanced biofuels in 2025 falls to 0.25% (in energy terms). Nordic countries are at the forefront of advanced biofuel project development. Aside from Denmark (0), Finland has established a 30% target for biofuels in road transport by 2030, without double-counting. Sweden, which already has the highest share of renewable energy in transport in the European Union, has committed to reduce domestic transport GHG emissions 70% by 2030 (from the 2010 level, excluding aviation). A CO2 emissions reduction obligation for fossil fuel suppliers and large consumers is in place to support this target, as are energy and carbon taxation, demonstrating that quota polices are not the only policy tool to encourage biofuel deployment. Although a range of novel advanced biofuels can be used to meet the EU target, to give an indication of the level of investment needed, if cellulosic ethanol were used exclusively to meet announced quotas, consumption of 1.3 billion Litres would be required in 2025. This amount – far higher than current global production – equates to the output of roughly 30 commercial-scale refineries, compared with the four currently operational, and approximately USD 3.5 billion of investment by 2025. Nevertheless, this is significantly less than global investments in biofuel production in 2018 of around USD 6 billion (equal to 1% of total fuel supply investments) and is far below oil refinery investments of USD 24 billion last year. Although the emergence of policies under the RED framework guaranteeing that novel advanced biofuel offtake will stimulate the advanced biofuel industry, over half of EU member states have yet to present advanced biofuel policies to reach the 2030 target. Therefore, scaling consumption up further will require stronger policy ambition from not only more EU member states but other countries, since imported novel advanced biofuels can also be used to achieve the goal.